London & The South’s supremo Matt Chapman says last year’s runners-up are overachieving in third place ahead of round five at Wolverhampton on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
There’s no doubt I’m managing a team of overachievers this season. To be heading into the penultimate round at Wolverhampton on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Racing, in third place has been a massive effort by the jockeys and trainers who have played their part so far.
We were decimated by the loss of key trainers when the teams were announced back in the summer but we sit only 26 points behind Ireland, who are second to the run-away reigning champions Wales & The West.
Losing out to Jamie Osborne’s lot on the final day last season, when victory looked all but assured, was tough – it really was – but we simply haven’t had the strength in depth to match them this time around.
In fact, out of 20 trainers in the London & The South squad as many as 14 of them haven’t had any runners yet but those who have can play their part in upsetting Osborne’s party, starting at Dunstall Park.
Despite our lack of numbers, highlighted by having no representatives in Race 5 on Thursday, I’m optimistic we can finish with a flourish on the Tapeta at Dunstall Park and at Southwell next week.
I’m so confident about two of my runners that I’m considering playing my two Jokers. I’ve got the class horse in the big £100,000 finale (8.45) and a well handicapped two-year-old in the sprint nursery (5.45) and both can earn us double points.
Richard Hannon’s CROCUS TIME could go off a double-figure price in that six-furlong opener but she’s a filly who gives the impression she definitely has more to give. She was probably caught out by seven furlongs at Newmarket last time but she’s the pick of several Hannon entries.
I’m hoping Sean Levey, who is drawn next door to our other runner THE SMILING WOLF, will jump out just behind him and get a nice tow in to the race. Jack Channon asked if his apprentice Rose Dawes could ride so I was happy to use my second wild card to make that happen.
The Smiling Wolf carries a penalty for winning under Rose at Ffos Las but, like Crocus Time, has the form to put some valuable points on the board.
In the six-furlong handicap for the older horses (6.15) we’re represented by Hannon’s MINNETONKA who is nicely drawn in stall three. Richard feels he’s down to a mark he can go well off while Dan and Claire Kubler’s AIRA FORCE could be the dark horse.
When you delve into it, her form is better than it looks at face value. Dan was keen to run his daughter of Oasis Dream and the first-time cheekpieces might just give her an edge.
Dean Ivory and Eve Johnson Houghton fly the purple flag in the eight-and-a-half furlong handicap (6.45) with likely outsiders ACHILLEA and LUNARSCAPE. Achillea won a mile handicap for us on the opening night at Yarmouth but probably found the going too lively at Windsor last time.
She’s never run on the All-Weather but Dean really wanted her to take her chance while Eve’s filly also tries the synthetics for the first time. She could go well for Levey if she can get back to the promise she showed at Windsor on her re-appearance.
Another trainer who has been a brilliant supporter is Tom Ward, so when he wants to run a horse in a particular race I make sure it happens. The last time Tom was bullish about his chances he had a winner and a second for us at Windsor, so watch out for FARASI LANE in the 7.15.
A former assistant to Richard Hannon, Tom was keen to put his former guv’nor’s stable jockey Levey on the five-year-old who failed only in the final strides to win a similar one-mile Racing League race at Windsor.
Farasi Lane’s supported by the Hannon-trained NIGHT ARC – a winner over this distance at Sandown in July who gets in off a light weight. That means the ever-capable Nicola Currie steps in to do the 8st 8lb and show what she can do.
Sitting out Race 5 at 7.45 will be frustrating but I’m hoping we’ll be back with a bang in the 8.15, the mile-and-six-furlong handicap. The Ward-trained DIAMOND BAY is only a couple of pounds higher than when he won over the distance at York and is four from 13 on the All-Weather.
Also lining up is Ben Brookhouse’s maiden GOZO, who had the option of running over a shorter trip on the same card but his young trainer believes this is the right race. The tongue-tie goes on for the first time so it’s not impossible he runs well.
The £100,000 race that closes the card is getting me excited about the prospects of our star horse MUMS TIPPLE. He’s quite simply the class act in the line-up, a Listed winner at the track who has the credentials to win this handicap but surely can’t fail to earn us some points.
I was hoping the Hannon stable would also run the smart Shouldvebeenaring, but the grey heads for the big Group One at Haydock Park instead. His substitute is Richard’s lightly-raced BOSH, who has clearly had his issues but was a useful two-year-old.
If Mums Tipple and Crocus Time run as well as I think they can, and some of our other leading contenders come up trumps, London & The South can go into the final round at Southwell next Wednesday on a high. We might not be able to peg back Osborne and his Wales & The West, but we can exact some last-minute revenge, which will be sweet enough.
Matt Chapman was speaking to Sky Sports Racing’s Simon Mapletoft.
Watch every contest from round five of Racing League from Wolverhampton live on Sky Sports Racing on Thursday September 7